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Center for Action and Contemplation

The Trinity Can Only Be Experienced 

Friday, June 9, 2023

On Trinity Sunday in 2013, Father Richard had just returned from an interfaith gathering with the Dalai Lama and representatives from many world religions. Richard shared:  

Perhaps the most quoted line from the Dalai Lama is, “My religion is kindness.” Isn’t that simple? “My religion is kindness.” He asked, really challenging us from other world religions, “How do you teach kindness or compassion and how does this come from your understanding of God?” I had the job of representing the Christian tradition; I thought the job was rather easy, because of the feast we celebrate today of God as Trinity.  

Sadly, the doctrine of the Trinity hasn’t exercised much influence in the Christian understanding of God. If most Christians—Catholic or Protestant—are questioned about their real image of God, it’s generally an old man sitting on a throne. He’s upset half the time and it’s our job to make this god happy. This, of course, has almost nothing to do with our actual doctrine on the nature of God. What our tradition believes is that God is a fountain fullness of love, a water wheel flowing constantly in one direction: Father to Son, Son to Holy Spirit, Holy Spirit to Father—always outflowing, always outpoured, always giving, never taking, but only receiving what the other gives. It would take the rest of your life to try to comprehend what that means! 

Many of us say we say we believe in the Trinity—but we really don’t, because we don’t know what to do with it. We can’t even imagine it; all of our metaphors are simply words trying to grab at the reality, at the experience of God that ultimately can’t be verbalized. It can only be experienced. [1] 

The medieval mystic Julian of Norwich (1343–c. 1416) is one who experienced the Trinity. She had multiple visions of God or “showings” during a near-death illness. Through CAC friend Mirabai Starr’s translation, Julian describes her encounter with the Trinity:  

In the midst of this showing the blessed Trinity also revealed itself to me and filled my heart to overflowing with joy. I realized that this is what it will be like in the world to come, for all beings, and for all time. For the Trinity is God, and God is the Trinity. The Trinity is our creator and our sustainer, our Beloved forever and ever, our endless joy and bliss. I saw all this in the first revelation and in every showing after that. Whenever Christ appeared, I seemed to understand the blessed Trinity, as well.  

“Benedicte domine!” I cried. “Blessed be the Lord!” I said, in a full voice, with reverence and intention, in awe and amazement. I was thoroughly astonished that he who is so great—so holy and majestic—would bother to mingle with such a homely creature as I. What I realized was that our Lord Jesus Christ, moved by loving compassion … wanted to bolster me with his comfort. [2]  


[1] Adapted from Richard Rohr, “Feast of the Holy Trinity with the Dalai Lama,” homily, May 26, 2013, MP3 audio.  

[2] Julian of Norwich, The Showings: Uncovering the Face of the Feminine in Revelations of Divine Love, trans. Mirabai Starr (Charlottesville, VA: Hampton Roads, 2022), 11–12. 

Image credit: A path from one week to the next— Jenna Keiper, Untitled. Jenna Keiper, Untitled. Izzy Spitz, Untitled. Watercolor. Used with permission. Click here to enlarge image. 

On retreat, the CAC staff used watercolors to connect to our collective grief. This is one of the watercolor paintings that came from that exercise. 

Story from Our Community:  

For a long time, I struggled with what I perceived as conflicts between love, church, spirituality and living life. About 25 years ago I started hearing about Richard Rohr. Around that time, I also started attending 12-step meetings and Alanon.… Understanding the 12-steps and Buddhism have made me a better Christian. This journey of spiritual exploration has brought me a deeper inner joy and serenity. I’m inspired by the idea of an emerging church that is … more connected to life, nature, and the grace of the Trinity. I look forward to continuing my journey in an emerging community where I can openly share the gems of my spiritual discovery. —Ed L.  

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